Fable III PC
Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Lionhead Studios
There were many that were disappointed that Fable II never made its way to the PC and the news that Fable III would be released on both the PC and Xbox 360 was certainly welcome. PC gamers have had to wait a considerable while longer however with the Xbox 360 version being released at the end of October in 2010, over six months ago. Despite the wait Fable III for the PC is essentially the same game that was released for the Xbox 360, albeit with a few minor improvements and an optional control scheme.
In Fable III you can choose to play either as a prince or princess and once again you’ll be accompanied, as you were in Fable II, by a dog as well as your butler who will eventually look after your sanctuary for you. Without going into the storyline in any great detail, so as to avoid giving any spoilers away, it will have to suffice to say that you’ll have to win the favour of various groups in order to win their support in assisting you to overthrow your evil brother who seems intent on crushing the people of Albion. You’ll win their support by completing quests for them and finally making them a promise that you’ll help their cause when it’s in your power to do so.
The main plot in Fable III is much more linear than in the other Fable titles and fans of the series may find this a little surprising. There are good and evil choices to make at various points in the game but the consequences for doing evil are not anywhere near as severe as you might think. Some may regard the choices as a little too black and white and it would have been better to have had more decisions to make where the end result wasn't quite so predictable. It should be noted however that the nature of the game changes dramatically once you've completed your revolution, which we can’t go into here for fear of spoiling the storyline, but suffice to say that it changes the game significantly.
During the main part of the game your main focus will be to earn Guild Seals, as you’ll need specific amounts of these to further the storyline and to purchase all kinds of upgrades for your character. You’ll spend your Guild Seals on what’s known as The Road to Rule, a pathway that’s lined with treasure chests that contain all kinds of upgrades such as interactions, level increases for doing various jobs, dyes for your attire, melee, ranged and magic boosts and so on for your character. A generous collection of side quests will allow you to earn these Guild Seals but you can also earn them by defeating enemies (even when not on a quest) and by interacting with villagers amongst other things. Completing quests is the fastest way to earn Guild Seals however and Fable III has quite a lot of quests that are not only enjoyable but also full of the rather madcap humour that the Fable series is well known for.
What seems really odd in Fable III is how you have to do chores for people before they will co-operate with you or be your friend. You’re supposed to be royalty so why do you have to do menial tasks for peasants before they’ll co-operate? You’ll have to dance with them, whistle at them, strike hero poses, hold hands (and there’s a lot of holding hands in Fable III) and even belch for them before they will trust you enough to let you run an errand for them. After doing the errand you’ll be considered their friend. In truth it’s tedious and you’ll find yourself being a lot less sociable in Fable III as a result of it. Social interactions aren’t the only tedious part of the game. You can still make money by purchasing property and renting it out along with doing jobs such as playing the lute, blacksmithing and making pies. The jobs are all dull affairs and as soon as you find more efficient ways of making money it’s unlikely you’ll bother with them much.
The combat in Fable III is not as enjoyable as it could have been. It seems too simplistic and you'll find yourself button bashing and employing the most simplistic of tactics to get through even the most difficult of battles. It could be argued that part of the problem is that there is no real penalty for dying and thus you can afford to be sloppy with how you approach a battle. At least the power of the magic attacks (you can switch between ranged, magic and melee attacks) appear to have been toned down a little in the PC version. In the original Xbox 360 version of the game the magic was so effective that you could almost completely avoid using any other form of combat but that's not the case here. It’s rather interesting that in Fable III you have weapons that evolve as your character does. It’s an interesting concept but not one that really improves upon the traditional method of simply giving you mountains of different weapons to choose from during the course of the game.
Pressing the start button (or escape button if you're using the keyboard and mouse control scheme) in Fable III won’t pause the game or bring up a menu. What it will do is to return you to your sanctuary where you can change your weapons and your attire, see what quests are available to you on the map table, check the skills of your character and those of his dog and it’s from here you can save your game too. There’s also an area that you can access to play co-operatively by joining someone else’s Fable III world or you can let them into your Albion, if you so choose. You’ll switch from the game world to your sanctuary instantaneously which is a good thing but as smooth as the transitions are and as novel as the idea is, I can’t help thinking that its ease of use isn’t greater than simply using a traditional in-game menu. At least you can quick save with a single button press in the PC version.
You have a choice of two control schemes in the PC version of Fable III. You can plug in an Xbox 360 controller (or presumably any other game controller) and play the game just as you would on the Xbox 360 or you can opt to play the game using the keyboard and mouse. Personally I prefer to play the game with a controller as it feels more natural to me but the keyboard and mouse controls work absolutely fine. The only oddity I experienced when using the Xbox 360 controller was when pressing the F5 button to quick save, the on screen icons would change to those of the PC keys rather than those of the controller buttons. After a few seconds however, the game corrects itself.
The steam punk visual style of Fable III is quite a departure from the previous games in the series but it’s a look that actually suits the mood of the game. Indeed from a visual standpoint the game certainly has a lot of charm. The Xbox 360 version had its fair share of graphical glitches that marred the game's rather charming look but, as far as I can tell, these glitches seem to have been sorted out (although there are still plenty of clipping issues here). The frame rate is better here than it was on the Xbox 360 version but it's not as smooth as it could have been, particularly when you're in the game's bigger towns. The animations are generally fine and some of the finishing combat moves look impressive if a little gorier than what you might expect to find in a Fable game.
As with the Xbox 360 version, Fable III for the PC is subtitled but is not as good as it could have been. The subtitles are turned off by default, so you’ll want to enable them at the first available opportunity which unfortunately is not before you start a new game. The subtitled dialogue does show the name of the speaker so you’ll be aware of who is speaking. There’s a lot of dialogue here that isn’t subtitled however and you’ll miss out on a fair bit of the game’s humour as a result. None of the peripheral dialogue is subtitled. You'll walk past characters who say hello for instance and this speech isn't subtitled. Comments made by the people you meet are not subtitled for the most part. For instance you'll meet and shake hands with someone and none of their comments, or the comments that your hero makes are shown in text. You won't be aware that your dog is barking to alert you to enemies that are behind you as there are no captions. Your dog also barks to indicate he's found treasure or a digging spot for you and an icon will appear over his head to signify this. The problem is that sometimes your dog can be outside of your field of view and on these occasions you’ll be unaware that he’s found something. Objectives and tutorial messages are shown in text.
It's been a long time since a Fable game appeared on the PC and I've no doubt that Fable III will be well received by those who don't have access to an Xbox 360. It's good to see that the glitches from the Xbox 360 version appear to have been sorted out and that the magic powers have had their potency reduced to balance out the combat a little. However, in most respects this is the same experience as the Xbox 360 version of the game (you're not getting all of the DLC for the Xbox 360 version included here or any original content for instance) and it's still arguably the weakest in the Fable series so far. That said, there's nothing quite like the Fable series on the PC and for all its faults Fable III is still an enjoyable game.